Return millions in excess funds to property owners

Philadelphia, April 19, 2017—Testifying at City Council budget hearings, Sheriff Jewell Williams described the millions of dollars in new revenues generated by the monthly Sheriff sales. The vigorous collection of delinquent real estate taxes through auction has resulted in an additional $60 million dollars per year in taxes and fees that is now forwarded to the City’s general fund.

“In my first year in office, Sheriff Sales collected $27 million in delinquent taxes and fees”, said Sheriff Williams. “From three sales a month in 2012, we now conduct six monthly sales, including a Land Bank Sale; and there is evidence that the backlog of delinquent cases is at last shrinking. While we still process more than 27,000 properties a year, the backlog of delinquencies and the amounts collected are getting smaller. “

Of the 27,000 properties processed each year, approximately 7,000 go to a final sale and processing properties is a vastly improved operation. When the Sheriff took office in 2012, it required up to 120 days after settlement for a property to be returned to productive use. Last year, the time between a property’s sale and the issuance of a new deed was reduced to 15 days.

The office has also dedicated resources to finding people who are owed excess funds from the sale of their property. After a property is sold, settled and all liabilities and debts have been paid and recorded, the owner of record at the time the court ordered the sale (“defendant”) may recover any excess balance remaining on the account through the Sheriff’s Defendant Asset Recovery Team also known as DART.

Historically, only a fraction of these excess funds were returned to the previous property owners. Sheriff Jewell Williams made it a priority when he took office in 2012 to search out those owed money by increasing the efforts of the DART unit. Under his leadership, the unit has been more aggressive in validating which defendants are eligible to receive payment and connecting with those individuals to put a check in their hands.

Last year, DART located 140 people and returned $2.2 million in excess funds to them. Since 2012, nearly $11 million has been returned to more than 400 people. If property has been sold at Sheriff Sale within the past 18 months, former owners can file a claim with the DART unit on the Sheriff’s website.

After 18 months, any funds that cannot be returned to the owner of record is forwarded (escheated) to the state as unclaimed funds. In six (6) years, $50 million has been escheated to the state. Owners can apply for this money through the Pennsylvania Treasury Department’s unclaimed funds process. Last year, the Sheriff’s office escheated $7,775,416 to the state in unclaimed funds.

The Sheriff’s office has also continued its robust efforts to educate the public on services it provides through workshops, seminars, and events all across the city.

Other Highlights of the Sheriff’s testimony to Council include:

• Training of new Deputies for the warrant service unit
• Security operations for the City’s Probation and Parole office
• Secure pouches to eliminate cell phone use in courtrooms
• Enhanced security for City Hall
• Gunlock giveaway-2800 free gunlocks have been made available to citizens on request

About the Sheriff’s Office
The Philadelphia Sheriff's Office is committed to serve and protect the lives, property and rights of all people within a framework of high ethical standards and professional conduct at all times. We are committed to excellence in public safety and professional services, and ensuring that those services are always satisfactory and of the highest quality possible.

Philadelphia, PA--Harold and Barbara Shapiro were the recent recipients of a check personally handed to them by Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams in recognition of the historic mark of returning over $10 million during his administration to individuals whose homes sold at a sheriff’s sale for more than the taxes owed.

“This ($10 million mark) reflects the hard work and dedication this office, and specifically the Defendant Asset Recovery Team (D.A.R.T), has put into ensuring that any excess funds generated from a sale is returned as quickly as possible,” said Sheriff Williams.

The Shapiro’s, lifelong residents of Philadelphia before moving recently to Croydon, Pennsylvania, said the money would be used to pay a few bills, then shared with family members.

“There are a couple of things we need to take care of,” said Barbara Shapiro, “then we will share the rest with family.” Also, she said, she will soon be losing her job because of downsizing and the money couldn’t have come at a better time.

“We take every opportunity to educate people on how to claim money they may be owed, and, to the best of our abilities, make sure they know they can file the proper paperwork for a claim by themselves,” said Sheriff Williams. “A middle person, who can legally charge as much as 15-percent of the amount recovered, is really not necessary. They can keep it all.”

For more information on how to apply for excess money you think may be owed from the sale of a property, you can reach the sheriff’s D.A.R.T. Unit at 215-686-3532.

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke and Sheriff Jewell Williams will appear together Sunday morning, September 25th at 11:30 a.m. on NBC 10 @ issue, a weekly news show that immediately follows "Meet The Press".  The two will discuss their joint "Got a Gun.  Get a Lock!" campaign that seeks to reduce incidents of accidental shootings, especially among children, by securing guns with gun locks given away free of charge, no questions asked.

PHILADELPHIA, PA---The office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County is urging individuals in the city AND surrounding counties to be aware of people trying to extort money by claiming they represent the sheriff’s office and/or the court, or Jury Commission Office.

“We are also supporting efforts by Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the First Judicial District in getting the word out about these scam artists and the despicable ways they are preying on innocent people,” said Sheriff Jewell Williams.

“I need to make it absolutely clear,” said Sheriff Williams, “we NEVER call ANYONE about a debt.  We SERVE a court-executed warrant”.

Among those who have been victimized are a number of constituents in Councilman Jones’ 4th District who have complained of people calling and threatening them with arrest and/or a heavy fine because they have either failed to appear for Jury Duty, or have not paid a specific debt, usually from a “quick loan” organization or a credit card debt.

Examples of the methodology used by the scammers include:

A 67-year-old woman being told she needed to pay a fine because she failed to respond to a jury notice.  The man said his name was Mike Sapp and represented the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia.  After the woman informed him she was going to call both the police and the court, he hung up.

  • A man being told there was a “warrant out for his arrest for theft by deception” because he failed to pay money owed on a credit card.  The female caller said she also represented the sheriff’s office and he could either turn himself in or call a certain number to pay the debt.   The caller even said it was okay to use a PayPal Account.  Unfortunately, the man wound up paying $300 to an organization called United Financial Resource.
  • Another woman was told she had to pay a fine because she missed grand jury duty and there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest.  The man who called her identified himself as Deputy Sheriff Strong.  The woman was literally on her way to pay the fine, but contacted Councilman Jones’ office first, which intervened and uncovered the scam.  Also, no such “Deputy Sheriff Strong” works at the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County.

“As the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, I am deeply concerned about this scam especially since it seems like they are targeting constituents in the 4th District,” said Jones. “I urge anybody contacted by these scammers to contact the proper authorities immediately."

Richard T. McSorley, Deputy Court Administrator, Criminal Trial Division for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, has issued the following:  “A jury summons is an official court order requiring jury duty. Failure to respond to your jury notice can result in legal consequences including contempt. However, no fines, costs or warrants of arrest are ever issued without notice of a court hearing that would be held in the Stout Center for Criminal Justice at 1301 Filbert street. No phone calls are ever made to those who fail to appear for jury duty”.

If you suspect you are being scammed or are suspicious of anyone claiming to be from the sheriff’s office or the court, please call any of the following numbers for verification and/or clarity:

  • Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County: 215-686-3530
  • Jury Commission Office: 215-683-7190.
  • District Attorney’s Office: 215-686-9900 

PHILADELPHIA, PA--Members of the Sheriff of Philadelphia’s Fugitive Warrant Unit last night apprehended an individual wanted by the FBI in connection with a string of recent bank robberies in Philadelphia. 

The suspect, Richard Cooper, was taken into custody by the warrant unit around 7:15 p.m. Sunday night in an alley on the 2200 Block of E. Cambria Street.

Cooper, who was not the original target of the warrant unit, was also under house arrest before he took off recently and was being sought by the warrant unit for being an absconder on rape charges.

According to Staff Inspector Jennifer Algarin, one of the individuals involved in the apprehension, and Captain Vernon Muse, head of the warrant unit, while enroute to a two-story row home on the block to serve a warrant on an individual charged with intent to deliver drugs, the unit, which consisted of five individuals, were tipped off by an informant that Cooper was in the same house.

Further investigation revealed Cooper was also being sought in connection with no less than two bank robberies at gunpoint. Amid concerns he may have been armed with a high powered weapon, the unit also called in the Philadelphia Police Stakeout unit and other uniformed Philadelphia Police officers for backup.

As the warrant unit approached the front of the house, Cooper fled out the back door and into an alley where he was apprehended without a struggle by members of the warrant unit already covering the rear.

Cooper was taken by the warrant unit to the Curran Fromhold Correction Facility on State Road.

“We never know what we are going to face when we go out looking for fugitives,” said Sheriff Jewell Williams.  “The fact this dangerous individual was captured without a struggle and no one was hurt is a plus for us, and a testimony to good training, but more importantly, it means that one less dangerous individual is no longer on the streets.”

For more information contact Joseph Blake, Communications Officer, at 215-495-4174.

PHILADELPHIA, PA---The Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County has launched an interactive, data-rich WebAPP that offers detailed information on properties scheduled for sheriff’s sale that includes names, dates of sale, location, and what will possibly be the opening bid on the property.

The site, at www.phillysheriff.com also contains maps, word-search fields, and a wealth of detailed information about the properties and the conditions under which they are being sold.

“This new feature is a continuation of our efforts to make us as transparent as possible while providing a level of technical efficiency and service that has never been offered by this office,” said Sheriff Jewell Williams.

The web application is the first of its kind in the nation to be used by a sheriff’s office, and is in line with Sheriff Williams pledge to provide more openness and accessibility to records and data for everyone.  This has also helped to level the playing field for those looking for a home, and a piece of the American dream.

“When you look at who attends sheriff sales now,” said Sheriff Williams, “there are just as many individuals and first-time buyers as there are speculators and contractors.  That’s partly because of innovations like this app, our outreach and educational seminars on how to buy at a sale.”

The upgraded website also offers:

  • An easy, interactive way to find the neighborhood in which a property is located. 
  • A street view of the property on Google map
  • Names of current property owners
  • The possible opening bid you can expect at the sale.
  • The ability to download and save information right from the site

IT Director Tom Dodd, and web developer Micah Mahjoubian worked together to create the site and say the interest is already high, and increasing daily.

“Basically, the entire web site is all about delivering on promises of transparency and openness,” says Dodd.  “Technology allows us to do just that, while also raising our level of professionalism and service.”

 
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PHILADELPHIA, PA--The Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County is seeking to hire qualified individuals for the position of Deputy Sheriff Officer December 22nd through January 2nd, 2015.

 “Deputy Sheriff Officers are highly trained in both law enforcement and civil procedures needed for this challenging, and rewarding position”, said Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams.

 Potential deputies must also undergo background checks and pass written exams, physical, agility, and physiological tests before being considered for the position.

State law requires all candidates to pass a 19-week course at Penn State University.  

All potential hires must either live in the City of Philadelphia, or become a resident within six months of hire.

For more information, and to fill out the online application, visit the web site of the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County at www.phillysheriff.com, or the City of Philadelphia’s web site at www.phila.gov.  (Look under the Personnel heading for the job description and access to an application).

Media contact: Joseph Blake at 215-686-3572

Philadelphia, Dec. 3—The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Bicycle Patrol Unit has put together a Holiday Toy Drive that starts today and runs through December 19th, 2014. The unit is seeking donations of new, unwrapped, infant and/or adolescent gifts for those children still hospitalized over the holidays.

 Whether it’s needles for tests, painful therapy, or simply being in a space that is not home, these children struggle daily through different illnesses and challenges, but they can still take part in the holiday spirit through the generosity of others eager to share their blessings of health, family, and home.

 “This is the time of year that usually brings smiles to the faces of children, joy to their hearts and hope for their futures,” said Jewell Williams, Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County.

“The fact the men and women of the Bike Unit have volunteered their time to collect gifts for these children does not surprise me, and, indeed, reinforces the same values of compassion and duty that is a constant throughout this office,” said Sheriff Williams.  “I salute them for their thoughtfulness.”

Gifts can be dropped off at boxes near the entrance of the following locations during regular business hours:

  • Juanita Kidd Stout Court/Criminal Justice Center - 1301 Filbert Street (toy drop off: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
  • Philadelphia Family Court – 1501 Arch Street (toy drop off hours:  7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. M-F)
  • Traffic Court – 8th and Spring Garden Street (toy drop off hours:  8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.)
  • Office of Philadelphia Sheriff – 100 S. Broad Street – 5th Floor (toy drop off hours: 8:30 – 3:30 p.m.)

Suggested gifts include infant sound machines, bath toys, mobiles, and other crib toys.  Adolescent items could include model and craft kits, jewelry sets, watches, art supplies, bath items and make-up and manicure sets.

Media Contact (not for publication):  Joseph P. Blake (215) 686-3572

Philadelphia, July 14 -- Sheriff Jewell Williams announced today that for Fiscal Year 2014 the Sheriff’s Office increased its payment of delinquent taxes and fees to the City by 40-Percent over Fiscal Year 2013.

Delinquent taxes, water and gas bills are collected through monthly Mortgage Foreclosure and Tax Sales. In FY 2013 the office collected and turned over $27,500,000. In the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2014 the office collected and sent to the City of Philadelphia $45,160,648—an increase of $18.1 million.

The Sheriff attributed the added revenue in part to increases in the number of properties put up for sale. However, the majority of the increase was due to the efficiency of the new information technology system and the hiring of staff to conduct and process sales in a timely manner. After a year of development, this new computer system first became operational for the October 2013 auctions.

 “The principal mission of the Sheriff’s Office is to transport up to five hundred prisoners a day to and from Courts and to guard and protect everyone who uses the City’s nine Court facilities. However, as agents of the Court System we carry out duties directed by Court Order. One of the most complicated is holding Foreclosure and Tax Sales,” noted Sheriff Williams.

“There are some sales in which approximately 500 new properties are put up for auction”, he continued. “Over the course of a year about 7,500 new properties and liens are put up for sale and each property has to be processed, advertised, and posted. Once sold, the delinquencies owed to the City must be paid and a deed prepared for the new owner.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact:  Airika Brunson
Phone:  215-686-3572

Philadelphia juveniles paint their way to a second chance

At-risk student art exhibit opens at Family Court Division

Philadelphia, March 25—In partnership with INLIQUID Art and Design, the Office of the Sheriff of the City and County Of Philadelphia, invites the public to view the Traveling Youth Art Exhibition starting on Tuesday, April 1 through April 30, 2014 between the hours of 2pm and 5pm at the Philadelphia Family Division of Juvenile Court, 1801 Vine Street.  The Art Exhibition is an opportunity to celebrate and honor the talents, creativity and determination of local public school students who were once affected by the juvenile justice system—in some cases due to circumstances beyond their control.  Their artwork portrays their vision of their communities and homes.

The Office of the Sheriff is sponsoring the art exhibit to support innovative programs that provide second chances to youth, some of whom have been in detention.  In 2013, the Sheriff's Office delivered 7,177 juvenile inmates to court and sentencing hearings.

“The vast majority of these young people are from neighborhoods with known gang, high crime rates and urban blight; they need creative options–including art programs, education and job opportunities,” said Sheriff Jewell Williams.  “I'd rather see the youth packing pens, paint brushes, paper, notebooks and computers than packing pistols, shot guns, or gang tattoos.”

"I would like to see more of these art programs throughout the city, especially if they result in fewer juveniles visiting my court house," says Judge Kevin Dougherty, Administrative Judge of the Family Division of Juvenile Court.  “Since 2009, the number of juvenile arrests have been decreased by nearly 3,000, we want to continue that trend.” 

The Traveling Youth Art Exhibit collectioncontains works fromstudents at Edison High School, The Philadelphia Mural Arts Guild, Harrington Elementary School, and Moore College of Arts Learning through Photography Program.  More than 30 pieces are on exhibit, representing students from all grade levels.The students were chosen from arts education programs; each has had experience in the criminal justice system or spent time in detention.

These youth artists were involved in art-making and engaged in creative outlets through their schools or through community organizations that prioritized access to the arts. The Traveling Art Show proves that all children and youth in Philadelphia need and deserve to have access to these same kinds of programs and opportunities.  The artists from the Mural Arts Guild program are former dropouts who have returned to earn their high school diplomas.

The exhibit is one of INLIQUID’s Juvenile In Justice programs which include a Youth Ambassador Program and the first free juvenile record expungement clinic in Philadelphia.  The clinic is a partnership with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE).  The Youth Art Show is traveling regionally throughout 2014.  

“Arts education plays an essential role in providing young people with tools to understand the world and to express themselves,” according to Rachael Zimmerman, President of INLIQUID. “By having them address issues related to both personal hardships and the justice system through art, we are able to learn from them and gain crucial insights from the perspectives of youth in our community, allowing us to better engage them and provide support.”

The Exhibit opens to the public on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 and runs thru April 30, 2014, 2:00 pm-5:00 pm Monday thru Friday.

About the Office of the Philadelphia Sheriff

The Office of the Sheriff, City and County of Philadelphia is committed to serving and protecting the lives, property and rights of all within a framework of high ethical standards and professional conduct at all time.  The Office is responsible to provide safety to all that enter Philadelphia courtrooms including, judges, juries, defendants, witnesses, courtroom personnel and the public.  It is also responsible to manage all First Judicial Court ordered foreclosures of property - that includes mortgage and tax sales, in an ethical, honest, transparent and respectful manner while offering dignity to all involved in the procedure.

About InLIQUID

InLiquid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to creating opportunities and exposure for visual artists while serving as a free, online public hub for arts information in the Philadelphia area. By providing the public with immediate access to view the portfolios and credentials of over 280 artists and designers via the internet; through meaningful partnerships with other cultural organizations; through community-based activities and exhibitions; and through an extensive online body of timely art information, InLiquid brings to light the richness of our region’s art activity, broadens audiences, and heightens appreciation for all forms of visual culture.